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By Gordon Korman

Whilst luckless Raymond Jardine turns into Sean Delancey's eleventh-grade-English undertaking accomplice, he persuades Sean's grandfather to pose as a long-deceased, imprecise Canadian poet, for you to move the direction and win a holiday to a sumptuous Greek island.

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The subversive style of the jig inaugurated by Tarlton proffers a partial explanation of the otherwise puzzling theatrical furore that erupted soon after his death, with the publication in October 1588 of the first of the seven pseudonymous tracts by ‘Martin Marprelate’. It is known that the theatre became embroiled in the controversy that accompanied these brilliant prose satires of the Anglican episcopate, but textual evidence is elusive. 54 There were those at the time who found in Marprelate’s sprightly prose echoes of the lately dead and much lamented Tarlton, as Patrick Collinson has recognised: The Marprelate Tracts were intensely theatrical, turning the bishops, with their own inherent theatricality, into actors in so many comic jigs, which were served up with what sounds like the patter or ‘rap’ of the popular theatre.

He was scornful of the plays on offer during the early 1580s, whether the rough-and-ready work of Robert Greene or the ornate products of John Lyly’s pen. Theirs are the ‘jigging vaines’ presented as if they were evidence that their authors’ ability to summon up rhymes legitimises their claim to be ‘mother-wits’. Blank verse— what Ben Jonson famously called ‘Marlowe’s mighty line’—was his weapon of choice in the battle for an appropriate dramatic language. It seems likely, though, that, in the reference to ‘such conceits as clownage keeps in pay’, Marlowe’s secondary target was the dramatic jig.

There is no surviving evidence that jigs were subject to the censorship of the Master of the Revels, perhaps because the fiction that they were nothing more than improvised post-play entertainments was sustained. What an opportunity for a politically assertive Clown! There is much of the raucous spirit of carnival in the bawdy of surviving texts, even where the impact of gesture is lost. What is irrecoverable is the derisive mimicry of prominent contemporaries, which has always been part of the theatre’s armoury.

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